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This article was prepared for the December 12, 2001 edition
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
After September 11, An Empty Sky
The date September 11 provokes many images in its
survivors. Donna Clovis invokes the catastrophic events of that tragic
morning with the idea of "The Empty Sky."
Clovis, a photojournalist and Princeton Junction resident who commutes
to her job as Web director at New York University, had taken the day
off work on September 11 — a rarity for her. In the days following
the tragedy in lower Manhattan she worked to document both the impact
of the disaster and the endeavors of the human spirit as people
to recover from the tragedy.
Clovis has brought her photographs together in the show, "The
Empty Sky," which opens at the Rubel Studio and Gallery in
with a reception on Friday, December 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Her black
and white and infra-red photographs include images of the Manhattan
skyline that she happened to shoot on Sunday, September 9, from
where she was on assignment.
"`The Empty Sky’ is dedicated to my train community," says
Clovis. "I commute from Princeton Junction on New Jersey Transit
and Amtrak. The people on the trains are a community. Over the years,
friendships have developed. There are those you know and those you
don’t know, but the faces are familiar. It’s the guy you always see
in the coffee shop with a bagel, or the woman with the dark hair and
unusually shaped brown bag who walks by every morning at the same
Clovis has been commuting for Manhattan for six years, since she made
the transition from teaching (she was named New Jersey teacher of
the year for her work at Princeton’s Riverside School) to Columbia’s
School of Journalism. She has worked as a producer at ABC and is now
web director for a new online magazine at NYU.
"When the disaster struck, our train community was
says Clovis. "Many of us had only our New York work phone numbers,
since that’s the time we can get together. Many did not know how to
contact each other’s families. We wondered who had gotten out of the
trade center. Those faces we didn’t really know, where they still
"Over the weeks to come, as I photographed the relief efforts
and the memorials in New York, I eagerly looked for the people I knew
on the train," she says. "Thankfully, most of the faces
Those that survived had many horrific stories to tell, while others
perished. And then there were those about whom I can only say, `I
know his face, but I don’t know his name.’ They never appeared at
One of Clovis’s train companions worked on the 54th floor of the trade
center. Moments before the first plane struck, he had got up from
his chair to head into the stairwell to get a snack. He was thrown
to the floor of the stairwell and just kept on going to safety. Others
tell of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and walking and walking,
not knowing where they were or where they were going.
"We commuters come from different states and different places,
but we all meet on the train to work in New York. Our train community
is recovering slowly, but it’s going to take some time," says
Rubel Studio, 4454 Main Street, Kingston. Opening reception Friday,
December 14, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
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